A Review of the Jim Malcolm CD
by Jim Malcolm
Beltane Records. Belcd105
This review is written by Dai Woosnam, firstname.lastname@example.org, 4/07
We all know Jim of course through his membership of
Old Blind Dogs which he left last year. But that said, most of us will
not realise that this is his SIXTH solo album.
And even those who do, just might have sinking hearts when they read
the secondary title along the bottom of the CD cover: “Jim Malcolm
sings songs of Robert Burns”.
I can see them now saying “Haven't we thoroughly reached saturation
stage with Burns? How many more Scottish singers are going to do their
Burns albums: CDs that often add little to the considerable body of
interpretations of Burns songs that have gone before? I mean,
English artistes don't record albums of Burns's near contemporary John
Clare every five minutes! What's the game?”
I can see and hear them saying it, but they'd be on dodgy ground. True,
Clare was a fine poet, from the humblest of origins like Rabbie, but
that is where the similarity ends. For Burns often wrote his poem as a
song lyric with a view to fitting to a melody (indeed, he wrote over a
hundred songs); Clare however had all the melody he wanted, in the song
warblers in the hedgerows.
So with such a considerable body of work from their most famous poet at
their disposal, it is natural that Scots singers want to choose their
top 14 or so, and lay the tracks down for posterity. And so Jim Malcolm
is no different here from any other performer.
And neither am I, as a listener, different to other potential buyers of
this album. It strikes me that as Burns is a universal writer (remember
he is still the most popular British poet in Russia!), Jim Malcolm will
be aiming this CD at far beyond the Caledonian diaspora. Ideally,
aiming at someone like me: not exactly an authority on Burns, but
someone who has more than once done the Burns trail and visited all the
houses and places related to him from Kirkudbright right up to Aberdeen
(via Ayrshire and Dumfries), and someone who whilst needing the
glossary (which happily the CD provides), has a smattering of the Scots
vernacular that Burns used to such delicious effect.
So, let's cut to the quick. Would I buy this album to add to my Burns collection? Yes, I think I would.
The man's voice is just a wee bit too laid back on occasions – almost
as horizontal as Rod Paterson's – and could do with a bit more of the
passion that made Burns the man he was, but that said, it is a
marvellously assured performance from Jim. And not only “Mister”
Malcolm: his “Other Half” also proves a revelation.
Susie Malcolm (Jim tells us in his fine liner notes) had to be bullied
by him to go into the studio and take the microphone. Eh? What a rum
For the fact is, she delivers “The Ploughman” with real brio: with the
confidence of a tried and tested campaigner. And even better, her
harmony vocals are top-drawer: I love her chorus singing throughout,
and especially in “Rantin Rovin Robin” (some sweet harmonica from Jim
And talking of the liner notes, there is some sublime wit at work
there. I laughed out loud at this comment regarding “The Shepherd's
Wife”: “The song demonstrates that the woman who thinks that the way to
a man's heart is through his stomach, is aiming too high.”
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